An alleged con man accessed Waltham High School in May and stole an SAT test booklet from a safe, Waltham Public Schools Superintendent Susan Nicholson revealed this week.
"We don't know why they would do it," Nicholson said, calling it a breach of school security.
Nicholson made the announcement during a Sept. 12 citywide PTO meeting at . New test booklets were quickly brought in and the test went was administered as scheduled for June 2.
The man entered the school at around 2:30 p.m. (after the sign in desk is torn day for the day) as students were being released and went to the guidance office, Nicholson said. The man identified himself as an employee of ETS, the company that administers the SAT tests, Nicholson said. The man said he needed to check on something with a group of test booklets, which are kept in a safe, she said. The staffer and the man went to the safe where she photocopied his license and allowed him to see the booklets, Nicholson said.
"When pressed for additional identification, he said, 'I'm all set'," Nicholson said. "No one noticed that he was able to hide [the test booklet] on his person. He did leave the guidance office, as far as we could tell, with one copy of the test booklet."
Nicholson said the incident was later reported to the , which investigated it. Investigators later determined the man's licenses and phone number were fake, she said. While investigators were unable to determine the man's identity, Nicholson said ETS showed school officials a composite photo of the alleged thief they believe took the booklet. Nicholson said investigators believe the same man is responsible for a similar incident in Newton three years ago.
The man was also spotted in Waltham High School on the evening of May 30, the night before the theft, Nicholson said. Investigators believe he was casing the school's security, she said.
As a result of the theft, Nicholson said school officials are taking steps to tighten test and school building security. Staff in the building at night will be "more vigilant" about building visitors and have janitors ask unrecognized visitors for identification and check with the office on the reason for the visit, Nicholson said.
ANNOUNCING THE THEFT
School officials gave differing answers when asked why the incident was not announced until now. When asked if the matter was previously disclosed, Nicholson said she had reported it to police and the school committee and said that was public record and said she did not know whether a public notice was ever distributed about the theft.
"I don't think that there was any intention to not say anything," Nicholson said. "We followed all the protocols including a police investigation."
No school committee member ever mentioned it at a school committee meeting, according to a review of the meeting minutes since May. A search of the web for media reports on the theft turned up no information. Also, Nicholson told meeting attendees of the incident in words that indicated she had never announced it before.
Mayor Jeanette McCarthy told Waltham Patch she learned of the incident after a constituent asked her about it. McCarthy said she later called Nicholson about it.